Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Cultures exist in companies and churches. There is “the IBM way,” for instance. “First Church” has a particular “mind-set” in every community across the land. There are distinct “corporate personalities” which set one group of people off from other groups of people. “This is the way we do it here.” “You’re in the Army now.” And, you cannot be “in the Army” the way you are back home with that “dear old gang” of yours. Different groups require different ways of thinking and being.

When we come together over time, we participate in the unconscious creation of a “group mind.” We are, on some level, like a flock of blackbirds, taking off together, turning together, landing together, with no one in particular directing the movement, and no one trying to follow the lead, and everyone taking off, turning, landing as one. We all know what is permissible and what is disallowed without drawing up bylaws, establishing rules, making motions, passing legislation. What we think and how we act, how we live, is conditioned, if not determined, by our primary group membership. We are of “like mind” with some group which provides us with identity and stability, which orients us in time and space, upholds, supports, sustains us, and points us “in the right direction.” We do not have a mind of our own. Without the group, some group, we don’t have a mind at all.

Think of “mind” as a particular configuration of perspectives, a certain way of thinking, seeing, and being in the world. A “culture” of its own. We don’t know what we think about something until we “make up our mind.” When we tell someone what we think about an issue important to us, we give them “a piece of our mind.” But, our mind is not actually “ours.” It is the joint construction of our primary group. How differently can we think, and be, from the way things are thought, from the way people are, around us?

Some groups are sub-groups of a larger group. The culture—the “mind-set,” the “mind”—of the religious right, for instance, permeates civic groups, retail marketing associations, churches, and social clubs. You could be a member of Rotary, work for Wal Mart, belong to the big white church on the corner, and dance each Friday night with the Jolly Swingers, and the larger, cultural mind of the religious right would be reinforced in each of those smaller groups. And, you probably would not be a member of a sub-group that reflected and espoused a different mind.

Indoctrination and repetition is the process of deprogramming and reprogramming, of replacing the previous mind-set with a new one. We immerse ourselves in the language, particularly the catch phrases, of the group, absorb the mind of the group, become one with the group, and have to return to the group to be reinforced by the group and remain connected with the mind of the group in order to live as extensions and expressions of that mind in the world.

It is an interesting phenomenon how we break ties with one group mind, establish ties with another, perhaps competing, or entirely contrary, group mind. We “grow out of” one group and into another. We shift allegiances. We abandon practices. We walk away. Sometimes, we are shut out. We drift for a while and then are absorbed by a new group. Or, we are “proselytized” by one group while still a member of another group. Perhaps we think we are joining a sewing club which is really a clandestine Bible society, but it meets our needs, and we embrace its tenants and become one with its mind.

Or, we find ourselves resisting the imposition of a perspective and philosophy that we cannot condone or tolerate, much less espouse. We reject the group mind. We assert our independence. We think for ourselves, yet, shrivel and die, spiritually, if not physically, without the supportive presence of those who think like we do. We look for like-minded-ness, for eye-to-eye-ness. We cannot live well without it.

The tendency to move from mind to mind, so to speak, suggests mind searching for mind, suggests mind beyond mind. The experience of transcendence may be the ultimate form of like-minded-ness, may be absolute eye-to-eye-ness, belonging in the fullest, deepest, sense of the word—being a part of, being at-one with, the whole; “getting it,” at last.

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